Senator Tom Cotton Introduces Bill That Would Renew Section 702 Forever With Zero Changes

from the shut-up,-they-legislated dept

The debate over the renewal of Section 702 surveillance continues, but a group of legislators is looking to short-circuit the discussion. Senator Tom Cotton and a whole bunch of Republicans have introduced a bill that would ensure this discussion is never raised again. [h/t Julian Sanchez]

Senator Tom Cotton (R-Arkansas) along with Senators Richard Burr (R-North Carolina), Jim Risch (R-Idaho), Marco Rubio (R-Florida), Susan Collins (R-Maine), Roy Blunt (R-Missouri), James Lankford (R-Oklahoma), John Cornyn (R-Texas), John McCain (R-Arizona), Thom Tillis (R-North Carolina), Pat Roberts (R-Kansas), Lindsey Graham (R-South Carolina), John Thune (R-South Dakota), and David Perdue (R-Georgia) today introduced legislation making Section 702, and the entirety of Title VII, of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) permanent.

This followed Cotton's statements on the Senate floor, where he used recent attacks in the UK to make incoherent points about domestic security.

The attacks in London last weekend exposed in a matter of minutes just how vulnerable our free societies truly are. All it takes is a van or a knife and an unsuspecting bystander to turn a fun night out on the town into a horrific nightmare. Course, we shouldn't need any reminders, but let me give one yet again: We are at war with Islamic extremists. We have been for years, and, I'm sorry to say, there's no end in sight. It's easy to forget this as we go about our daily lives, but our enemies have not-and they will not. They've never taken their eyes off the ultimate target either: the United States.

Attacks in other countries are apparently just pre-game warmups for terrorists. The only way to prevent a domestic attack is to never ask questions about Section 702 again, apparently. If we don't trust our government to respect our privacy and civil liberties, it's not because the NSA constantly abused its Section 702 collection programs (and then hid these abuses from its oversight). No, the real villain here is the man who exposed this abuse to the general public.

Unfortunately, this and other programs were distorted in the public debate by a traitor, disgruntled ex-NSA contractor Edward Snowden, who now sits in the warm embrace of Russian intelligence services. And ever since his very damaging leak of classified material a few years back, many Americans have grown doubtful of these programs-and section 702 in particular.

I love it when someone describes the dumping of internal documents as "distorting." It underlines the speaker's desire to have the Great Unwashed remain in the dark while the government expands its collection capabilities and surveillance powers.

Cotton's Senate statement goes on to make it clear that nothing but a "forever" renewal will do, while handwaving away NSA abuses with meaningless phrases about privacy protections.

It's true that this program occasionally does collect information about American citizens-and that will be true of any attempt to stop any kind of homegrown terrorism. But if you're concerned about protecting Americans' privacy rights, then you should support extending this program. It puts in place a host of privacy protections to scrub raw intelligence of any unnecessary identifying information. To allow this program to expire on December 31 would hurt both our national security and our privacy rights.

That's why today I'm introducing a bill that would reauthorize section 702 permanently, as is, with no changes.

If nothing changes, then the "host of privacy protections" simply don't exist. The NSA itself made the biggest step towards fixing its routine, decade-long run of privacy violations by dropping the "about" program. A clean re-auth adds nothing to anyone's privacy. A forever re-auth would ensure this status quo in perpetuity.

As astounding as Cotton's contradictory assertions are, they're topped by Sen. Lindsey Graham. Earlier in the day, Graham was reported to have stated he would not support the reauthorization of this surveillance program because it could be "politically manipulated." And yet his name appears in the list of legislators pushing this bill.

So here we are, with the debate just officially beginning in the Senate and already surveillance proponents are making it clear they're not interested in discussing Section 702. Ever.

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Filed Under: nsa, oversight, section 702, surveillance, tom cotton


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  1. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 7 Jun 2017 @ 12:57pm

    Tom Cotton, what an asshole

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